Hi, I'm Dr. Beth Onufrak!

When a family pet dies

published26 days ago
2 min read


When Your Family Pet Dies

Hello again --

Isn't it an awful moment in parenting.

A beloved pet dies.

Your kids' hearts are broken, and yours may be too. Especially if this pet was your first "child."

Loss is part of life, part of loving.

Truthfully, there is nothing you can do, no magic words to take the pain away.

But you can help your child's heart heal.

Here are 3 ways to facilitate pet grief.

They may not sound very special ... but these are the ingredients child therapists use.

We support the ways children's hearts heal themselves.

Draw about it.

Old as the hills, drawing is a great healer. Even helpers in Ukraine use art to help children release pain, express themselves and move forward in some way.

Many kids draw spontaneously in their sadness. But you can also lead the way. Sit beside your child. Draw your own picture of the kitty, doggy, fish, or hamster.

Prepare to be surprised by what your kids draw. Children often find consoling notions that only emerge in art.

Drawings also often reveal things on kids' minds you were unaware of. Let that right hemisphere talk!

Art is the great healer of children's hearts.

Talk about it.

Silence about a pet death confuses kids.

They perceive loss, see and hear your grief, even in your silence. Not talking about lost pets leaves kids without ways to manage their grief.

You can talk about it. Talking sends the signal that even uncomfortable feelings are sayable and surviveable.

When you talk about your own sorrow, kids see a passageway to coping. Like:

  • I miss Max.
  • I can hardly believe he's not here.
  • I still love him and will always remember him.

When your child expresses grief and you don't know what to say, just reflect -- mirror back the words.

  • "I miss Tiger!"
  • "Yes, I know, you really really miss our sweet Tiger."
  • "Why couldn't the doctor fix her?"
  • "I don't know, the doctor just couldn't fix her -- it's hard for us to understand."
Talk about your pain and reflect their grief words.

Feel gratitude for your pet.

Gratitude is a great healer.

If there's a yin & yang of grief, I believe it's sorrow and gratitude.

Here are some ways to "do" gratitude:

  • A house Love Tour. With your kids, go to each place your pet loved to curl up, sleep and play. Sit and let the tears fall ... until sadness yields to chuckles, smiles and thanksgiving. Sit in the joy your pet brought to your family.

  • "Thank you rituals." Draw cards for your pet. Make a photo collage. As a family, thank your pet for the joy, the cuteness, the laughter and companionship.
Gratitude is a great healer.

As always, these ideas are inspired by the child's point of view.

This perspective lights the path of parenting so you can battle less and cuddle more.

Learn about the ChildSightTools® approach here.

Hope this is helpful!

And remember ... Looking through your child's eyes changes everything.


Dr. Beth

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